2024 NFL Draft Day 3 RB targets for the Texans

The Texans looked to upgrade the running back position in free agency, finally landing on a trade for Joe Mixon a and subsequent extension. Mixon is under contract with the Texans through the 2026 season but Houston has an out after the 2025 league year. 

Mixon gives the Texans a true dual-threat running back as he’s averaged over 50 receptions per season over his past three years. Mixon hasn’t dominated as a rusher in the league with a career average of 4.1 yards per carry and only one season out of seven in which he surpassed that mark, which was back in 2018. He has been steady since entering the NFL with only two active running backs (Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry) having more touches than his 1,854 to this point in his career. Behind Mixon the Texans are paper-thin.

Running back Dameon Pierce, the Texans’ 2022 fourth-round pick, played well as a rookie but hit a severe sophomore slump that saw him rank 53rd out of 53 qualified rushers (including quarterback) in yards per carry at 2.87 this past year. Mixon wasn’t superb either as his 4.02 mark ranked 31st. Both current Texans backs were bested by Devin Singletary last year at 4.16 (26th). The year prior, in Pierce’s breakout rookie campaign he ranked 31st out of 46 qualified rushers at 4.27 with Mixon coming in at 39th at 3.88 yards per carry. A healthy offensive line could see those numbers drastically improve in 2024 in an offense with weapons abounding. 

Behind Mixon and Pierce, the Texans have J.J. Taylor and Gerrid Doaks. Taylor has 58 career touches in which he’s averaged 3.0 yards per carry and 3.3 yards per reception. Those 58 career touches are 58 more than Doaks has seen in the NFL.

The Texans need to find a running back in the 2024 NFL draft that can step up into a starters’ role if Mixon were to miss time, while also serving as the top backup at the position as a bounce-back year can’t be relied on with Pierce in a season with so much riding on it.

The Texans have been kicking the tires on running back prospects as we get within the last couple of weeks before the draft starts and there are several more they could look at with their Day 2 or Day 3 picks. Their attention has been focused more on the guys they could land on Day 3 of the draft and in particular those that should go off the board in the fourth round, where the Texans have two picks at No. 123 and No. 127.

Here are six running backs that the Texans could target in the fourth round of the draft.

Texans 2024 NFL draft targets

MarShawn Lloyd, USC

Measurable: 5-foot-9 | 220 pounds | 30.5-inch arms | 6-foot-1.5 wingspan | 9-inch hands

Combine numbers: 4.46 40-yard dash | 1.56 10-yard split | 36-inch vertical | 9-foot-10 broad | 25 reps

All of the backs listed here are fits for the Texans’ zone scheme. Lloyd is the only one that’s a “creator back”. By that I mean he’s able to take a busted play and create a decent run using a combination of jab steps, shiftiness, speed and the ability to get skinny. 

Lloyd runs balanced and with power. Unlike with most backs entering the NFL Lloyd seeks contact in pass protection. Being able to protect quarterback C.J. Stroud will be key to how much these rookies will get to see the field. Lloyd sees the cutback and is deadly with it. When he decides to head north and south he lowers his pads and accelerates behind them.

Lloyd has receiving ability mostly utilized on underneath routes but showed the ability to work off-script to give his quarterback a target. He’s not a premier receiving threat which Houston may look for as a key skill set with Pierce lacking in this regard as well. If Mixon would miss time, they would prefer a back that could fill his role and not become a one-dimensional offense with their starting back. 

Will Shipley, Clemson

Measurables: 5-foot-11 | 206 pounds | 30-inch arms | 6-foot-2 wingspan | 9.5-inch hands

Shipley ran a lot of inside zone in college. He displayed great contact balance and is dangerous in the open field as he is extremely athletic and acrobatic. Shipley sets up his blocks well and shows patience behind pulling linemen. 

He’s a willing blocker, so much so that he would lead block for his quarterback and fellow running backs in college. Whether lead blocking or in pass protection he’ll need to fix his flaw of dropping his head before contact.

Shipley could be the exact prospect the Texans are looking for in the draft as he complements Mixon and Pierce perfectly. He gives you something different from both of those guys and can fill a lot of the void that the offense would have if Mixon were to miss time. Even when Mixon is healthy he provides an instant return on investment as he has legit receiver ability and can line up out wide or come in to run his deadly angle route out of the backfield. 

Ray Davis, Kentucky

Measurables: 5-foot-8 | 211 pounds | 30-inch arms | 6-foot-0 wingspan | 9-inch hands

Combine numbers: 4.52 40-yard dash | 1.56 10-yard split | 35-inch vertical | 9-foot-11 broad

Davis has good vision, plays behind his pads and rides his blockers on pulls. His one-cut ability is perfect for the Texans’ scheme. Davis has lethally sharp cuts with the ability to stop on a dime. When he sees the cut, not only is his attack instant but he knives through the smallest of holes.

Davis isn’t timid as a blocker and will get right in the mix with the muck. He’s dangerous in the open field and has insane balance on his spin moves. He’ll be available for the Texans in the fourth round due to the lack of homerun speed or ability to pull away from defenders and Houston already visited with him ahead of the draft.

Davis had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the SEC with an average of 30 receptions over those past two years. He’d mesh perfectly with the Texans’ current mix of running backs.

Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

Measurables: 6-foot-0 | 221 pounds | 31-inch arms | 6-foot-3 wingspan | 9-inch hands

Combine numbers: 4.33 40-yard dash | 1.55 10-yard split | 41.5-inch vertical | 10-foot-9 broad | 6.94 3-cone | 4.15 short shuttle

Another running back Houston met with, Guerendo has a freakish athletic profile for his size or any size, really. He has the speed to win the edge, is patient to allow blocks to develop and will push the hole with an intended cutback. Guerendo lowers his pads and protects the ball before contact.

He has a quick side-step and balanced spin move to avoid tacklers. However, even with his athletic abilities, he’s taken down far too often by the first tackler and also by leg tackles. When he is tackled with momentum he’s always able to gain extra yardage by either dragging defenders or falling forward, maximizing each run.

An issue the Texans may have with his film are two major areas: first, the limited touches in college with him only seeing 196 carries over the past two seasons, although this didn’t scare them off from drafting Pierce in the fourth round previously as he only had 206 carries in his last two seasons at Florida. Lastly, on stretch zone runs in college, he too frequently opted on his speed to accelerate and win the edge, missing massive cutbacks open in the blocking. 

Audric Estime, Notre Dame

Measurables: 5-foot-11 | 221 pounds | 32.5-inch arms | 6-foot-4.5 wingspan | 10-inch hands

Combine numbers: 4.71 40-yard dash | 1.58 10-yard split | 38-inch vertical | 10-foot-5 broad | 23 reps

Estime is a big back who is a willing blocker with a good frame that needs to pass protect with more pop and violence. He’ll also turn on contact before picking up oncoming pass rushers. His size and smarts make him dangerous in the open field as he’s tough to bring down and makes up for a lack of speed by running to space with perfect angles away from tacklers. 

He’s more than a big body back as a runner as he has great lower-body disconnect at 220 pounds, a unique knack for getting skinny despite his frame and a surprising plant and cut, although it lacks explosiveness off of it.

Estime isn’t as effective on pulls, not a true receiving back and lacks the desired speed and explosion coveted at the position. It’ll be interesting to see if the Texans see him as a good mix with their current backs as he’s limited mostly to swing passes and checkdowns in the passing game but his massive wingspan and hands present a big target that could be utilized in addition to their current skill position players on the roster.

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Measurables: 6-foot-1 | 235 pounds | 31-inch arms | 6-foot-4 wingspan | 9-inch hands

Combine numbers: 32-inch vertical | 9-foot-9 broad | 26 reps

Allen is a huge back that is strong and stable in pass protection. He shows one-cut ability in a zone scheme, can get through tight spaces and is tough for defenders to get to the ground. When running with momentum it’s him that provides the pop on tacklers as opposed to the other way around. He can punish and wear down defenses. 

Similar to Estime he’s not fast or explosive, while also not running with the IQ that Estime displays with angles and space to maximize his limitations. He’s limited as a receiving back and has shown issues with putting the ball on the ground.

Allen’s zone running ability, size and pass protection could entice the Texans to select him on Day 3 of the draft but the limitations as a receiver could be too much for them to add to Mixon and Pierce. 

Who should Texans pick?

If the decision was solely talent-based, Houston would add Lloyd as he will provide a return in the pros that’s among the top of this class. Allen and Estime would be solid additions, but may not provide the insurance the Texans seek if Mixon were to miss time. Guerendo will be the selection if the Texans lean on athletic profile in their evaluation. 

Davis seems like a great mix to pair with Mixon and Pierce in Houston’s backfield and will be the fallback option if Houston doesn’t land the prospect that they hope to see slide to Day 3 of the draft — Shipley. His addition would continue the focus of overloading defenses with unique, different looks and a multitude of dynamic weapons that set Stroud best up for success. Shipley, like Lloyd, is a third-round value that could be available on Day 3. Caserio isn’t scared to move around in the draft and with two picks in the fourth round he could move up to ensure the acquisition of Shipley.

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